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I wrote about the Oklahoma City Thunder’s plan to have fans in the stands earlier this week, thinking that it was newsworthy because they were the first NBA team to announce their hopes, but that after that, it would probably be repetitive to keep doing it with more teams. However, Golden State Warriors owner Joe Lacob shared his team’s plan with ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, and hopefully, we are now on a reasonable trajectory towards full arenas and stadiums in 2021.
Lacob and the Warriors are hoping to have the Chase Center in San Francisco at half capacity — which would total about 9,000 fans — and they are willing to spend $30 million for rapid nasal PCR testing to get it done. Shelburne reports that the Warriors have presented the plan to state and local officials. Her story continues:
“I not only want to get this done and show the world how we can do it now, I’m willing to spend the money to do it,” said Lacob, who holds a master’s degree in public health from UCLA and built his fortune as a venture capitalist in biotechnology. “This is a serious, serious problem. It cannot go on for multiple years … because if this were to go on for several years, the NBA is no more. You cannot sustain this league with no fans. You can do it for a year. We’ll all get by for a year. But suppose we’re in this situation next year. Now we’re talking some serious, serious financial damage to a lot of people.”
It will be fascinating to see if this is something that California governor Gavin Newsom, who is at war with Disney because his regulations have kept Disneyland closed, would abide. In the ESPN story, a Warriors official said they spoke with him about their plan and that he was receptive to learning, but that he would run it by health officials. We shall see how long that takes and how patient the Warriors will remain if it doesn’t happen on a reasonable timetable.
Because professional and high-level college sports have continued on television, I’m not sure the average person realizes how much teams are hurt financially by not being able to have fans in the stands or by having them in low numbers.
The NBA and MLB will feel the pain most especially, since small market teams in these leagues rely more on the gate than TV revenue. TV deals are much more lucrative for teams in bigger cities.
The mighty NFL will also feel the effects of absent fans. In a Sportico story today, longtime NFL agent Leigh Steinberg said that the gate makes up 38 percent of the league’s revenues — $5.5 billion total and $220 million per team. About a third of the league still does not have fans in the stands.
We are going to start seeing more stories about how this trickles down to player compensation soon.
Knock on wood, but hopefully the emergence of a vaccine, combined with ambitious testing plans like what the Warriors have proposed, can bring us back towards normalcy in the next year.